The Message to Smyrna
Book of Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 8 through 11
The word Smyrna means bitterness. This is the word that describes this Church at Smyrna.
The city of Smyrna had suffered through many wars and was destroyed and laid in ruins until it was rebuilt by Alexander the Great in a new place a few miles from the old city of ruins. Those of Smyrna had learned some valuable lessons, or at least they had thought so.
In the wars with Rome, Smyrna quickly became faithful to Rome and was rewarded for it.
It was Smyrna who was one of the first cities to build a temple to the new Emperor.
It is said that everyone in the city had to come twice each year to publicly declare Caesar as Lord.
If a Christian refused, they were tortured or put to death.
They also erected a temple to Homer, because they claimed to be the birthplace of Homer. Homer was the great Greek poet.
Smyrna also built a temple to Zeus, one of the Roman gods.
The city of Smyrna had learned their lessons from the past and would always choose to be on the side of the strongest and of the victor, which is not always the best side to be on.
The city Smyrna began to be a city full of pagan worship and pagan rituals.
This is the backdrop from which this Church in Smyrna was established.
We may not know who it was that started this Church, but we do know that Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John was an early Pastor there.
Polycarp could not be the Messenger that this message was addressed to, because he came to Smyrna only after the death of John.
The Christian Church at Smyrna still hold Polycarp in high honor today.
One man writes, this church was established by Paul and one of the first Pastors at this time could have been Apelles who is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his salutes to Christians.
Rom 16:10 Salute “Apelles” approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.
When Rome began to persecute Christians in Smyrna, Christians suffered much through dreadful torments.
They were put to death at the stake, or killed and mauled by wild animals in great arenas, while the stands were full of the enemies of God, laughing and enjoying, while Christians were mauled and maimed and put to death.
Even Polycarp was put to death during this time in 155 AD.
It is said that while the Romans were burning Polycarp, that the flames formed an arch above his head, and he was not injured until a Roman soldier murdered him with a spear. Sounds familiar does it not!
Some people go outside the law to kill Christians and get away with it!
The Romans intended to stamp out Christianity in these early years of the Church.
It is also said that persecution came from Judaizers who also hated the Church.
The church also suffered through false teaching, which is the greatest enemy of the Church as a whole.
We can see that it was just tough to be Christian in the city of Smyrna!
It is also said that today the Church is still thriving in Smyrna, so all these enemies of the Church failed.
Here again we will see that this letter from Jesus, is addressed to the Angel or the Pastor of the Church of Smyrna.
*****Rev 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Look how Jesus says, His own persecution caused His death and He overcame that death, when He arose from that death to new life.
Every Christian will overcome death and live in a new life in a new place called the New Heaven and the New Jerusalem. This is the message that we need to understand!
Jesus totally understood the conditions that this Pastor, or Preacher or however you describe him, was going through, as he witnessed the things his flock suffered.
I know how our Pastor stands before us each week and tells us of those in our own church family, who have been taken on to Heaven to be with the Lord and those who are suffering and those with sickness.
2Co 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2Co 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
2Co 5:3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
2Co 5:4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
2Co 5:5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
2Co 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
2Co 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
When the Pastor of the Church in Smyrna stood before his own flock every week, he told of all those who were murdered and mauled in the arena and other places and were persecuted just because they refused to reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was a daily thing that some Christian was murdered in Smyrna.
It was a daily thing that some Christian was persecuted in Smyrna.
It was a terrible place to live if you were a Christian, in Smyrna.
We know that, before these people even felt the pains of death, they were already with the Lord!
We also know that wounds will heal, and a heart sold out to the Lord, will not quit on the Lord!
To many of these seven churches Jesus criticized many things, but to this church in Smyrna Jesus let them know that He understood their persecution and His proof was His own death by persecution.
Rev 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
Rev 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
This same message goes out to those going through severe persecution today in the many places where it is just hard to be Christians.
It is hard to be a Christian in a Muslim dominated country.
It is hard to be a Christian in a Hindu dominated country.
It is getting hard to be true Christians even in America, because the Church is compromising with the world.
Christian persecution is increasing all around our world today while the Christian Church is not even in competition with any false religion!
When you are in possession of the truth, many will come to hear this truth!
Jesus says to them “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore”.
This is true of every Christian whose life is taken away from them, just because they know their Savior and will not reject Him!
The name Smyrna signifies the substance called “myrrh”.
Myrrh is used in perfumes.
Myrrh is mingled sometimes in wine and with gaul to deaden the mind to the things around them. This drink was given to those who were sentenced to death on the cross to deaden their pain and make their agony longer. Jesus rejected this drink when it was offered to Him!
Myrrh is also used in embalming fluid.
But Smyrna was a proud city.
Proud of its culture.
Proud of its beauty.
Proud of its commercial wealth.
Proud of its social life.
Just not proud of the Christian Church!
The residents of this city felt that they were living in the first city of all of Asia.
Everyone would try to climb the social ladder, stepping all over those who got in their way.
The Jews in the city took advantage of all these things and became some of the worst of those who persecuted the Church.
In some cases if an employee was redeemed by the Lord, they would lose their job.
Most of the government and certain others, did everything they could do to get this city to stamp out Christianity!
Where are the churches like that of Smyrna located today?
According to the “Open Doors” ministry:
1) North Korea has the number one nation for Christian persecution for 19 consecutive years.
If a Christian has a Bible, or part of one, it will be carefully hidden and only read when the believer is sure they are alone.
Most Christians do not even tell their own children about their faith until they are older teenagers for fear that they may let something slip.
As you can imagine, gathering for worship in a church is non-existent.
Daring to meet other Christians for worship is a risky feat that must be done in utmost secrecy.
It is a miracle that this underground church in North Korea is able to exist. But more than that, it is growing.
2) Afghanistan: Where Christianity exists only in secret.
Afghanistan is once again only a point behind North Korea’s ranking on the 2020 World Watch List.
An Islamic state by constitution, the country does not permit any faith other than Islam to exist; and it is illegal to convert to anything else.
To convert to a faith outside Islam is tantamount to treason because it’s seen as a betrayal of family, tribe, and country.
Those who are discovered to be Christians may be sent to a mental hospital; because their families believe no sane person would leave Islam.
They may also be beaten or even killed by family members, or members of Islamic extremist groups like the Taliban which continues to increase its strength.
Violence against Christians remains very high, but the measures taken against converts depends on the family.
One Christian in Afghanistan says, “How we survive daily only God knows. He knows because He has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us.”
3) Somalia: Christians are hunted for their faith.
Estimates suggest that 99 percent of Somali citizens are Muslims, and any of the minority religions are heavily persecuted.
The violent extremist group, al-Shabab, which subscribes to the ultra-strict Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism, advocates Shariah law as the basis for regulating all aspects of life in Somalia.
This group has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from this country.
In every sphere of life; private, family, community and national; being exposed as a convert to Christianity in Somalia means life-threatening danger, often leading to on-the-spot execution.
As a result, most Somali Christians keep their faith completely secret. But despite the risks, Somali people are coming to faith in Jesus; some in miraculous ways.
4) Libya: No freedom for Christians.
After the ouster of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya plunged into chaos and anarchy.
And that situation has not changed for Libyans.
The continued absence of a single central government to uphold law and order has enabled various Islamic militant groups to control parts of the country.
Libyan converts to Christianity face abuse and violence for their decision to follow Christ.
5) Pakistan: Constant threat of mob attacks.
In Pakistan, all Christians (4 million out 204 million people) suffer from institutionalized discrimination, illustrated by the fact that occupations seen as low, dirty and derogatory are reserved for religious minorities like Christians by the authorities.
Many Christians are poor, and some are victims of bonded labor.
There are Christians belonging to the middle class, as well, but this economic status doesn’t save Christians them from being marginalized or persecuted in an Islamic culture—believers are always at risk because of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws.
The country’s patriarchal culture is especially cruel to Christian women, who are often targeted for both their faith and their gender.
An estimated 700 girls and women abducted each year are raped and then forcefully married to Muslim men in the community, usually resulting in forced conversions.
6) Eritrea: Christians arrested in increasing police raids.
7) Sudan: Political chaos increases vulnerability.
8) Yemen: Christians targeted in chaos of civil war.
9) Iran: Illegal to convert from Islam.
10) India: Violent and spreading persecution.
These are the top ten nations for Christian persecutions but there are still many others suffering from Christian persecution today.
This is where we find most all the Church that are like Smyrna today.
And Jesus says to these Churches:
*****Rev 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
There is nothing that goes on in this world that Jesus does not know about.
Jesus does never sit in Heaven saying, “what will I do now”!
This world is moving along according to the plan of God and God’s plan will never change.
You see the Lord sees all those who are persecuted for their faith in Him.
In the eyes of the world these may seem to be the most neglected people upon this earth and there is no doubt that they suffer greatly.
Jesus knows that they must keep their work secret and work unnoticed or they will be found out.
In reality, it can be said that none of the other six churches had the faith of this one church.
They did have just a little strength, but they were determined to do the work given to them by the Lord Jesus.
As Christians we all talk about the wonders of Heaven but in reality, none of us know just how beautiful Heaven will be and the riches of Heaven far outweigh, any riches in this life.
The saints of Smyrna were already full of the riches of faith and love.
These saints of God were holding up under constant persecution and affliction from their own government and they risked their lives every time they witnessed to those around them about the Lord Jesus Christ and the free gift of God’s Grace.
Jesus warned us all:
Mat 10:17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
Mat 10:18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Mat 10:19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
Mat 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
The church in Smyrna clearly understood what Jesus had said!
These people survived poverty because when you truly have nothing, you can be sure that Jesus is all we need.
In Smyrna even the Jews were their enemy, ignoring all the Word of God.
But who is a Jew?
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Today in all the places where we see churches similar to that one of Smyrna, it is not the Jews who cause problems it is the false Christians trying to be politically correct rather than be true to the Word of God or just deceivers.
They too were of the synagogue of Satan!
How did the Lord Jesus address these issues?
*****Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Jesus said to the Pastor, “fear none of these things”!
Jesus also said more persecution is coming!
This is a message we all need to understand.
The Devil is going to arouse all the unbelievers of this world to attack the believers.
God is going to allow all His children to be tried!
That word “tried” meaning to be proved reliable!
We should remember Abraham and His son Isaac.
Heb_11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
If God tried Abraham who do, we think we are? Are we reliable Christians? Can we stand up to the Devil?
Php_4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
How are we to react to those to reject us?
1Pe_4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Why were the saints of Smyrna going to be so rich?
Jas_1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
1Pe_1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
If we are tried and endure it according to the Word of God, we are able to receive the praise of our Savior.
These things are not limited to the saints of Smyrna but to every saint of God!
We can be assured that Satan only has a short time left to do his evilness!
In fact with all the earthquakes, volcanoes, increasing weather, pestilences such as the Corona virus, and insects, we should all be looking up for our redemption is drawing nigh!
This short time is not the devil’s doing, it is because the Lord is soon coming.
Heb 10:35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
Heb 10:36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
Heb 10:37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Heb 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Heb 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
We must remember this message is intended for every church and it will always have the same meaning.
And the Holy Spirit says:
*****Rev 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
We have no reason to fear what this world can do to us, but it will require that we be steady in our faith.
We must have great faith!
How did Jesus describe this “great faith”?
Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
Mat 8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, “I have not found so great faith”, no, not in Israel.
This may sound hard, but if we just accept that the Lord Jesus will do exactly what He said He would do and all the promises of God will be fulfilled, then this is where we are to place our faith!
We serve a Living God who is exceedingly able to do everything He says!
There is no greater reward than eternal life that is lived in the presence of our Holy God!
We must understand that there will be a second death!
Everyone that lives will certainly die. This is the first death.
Then there is this second death, and it is this second death that we need to avoid, and the Lord Jesus Christ provides that opportunity by giving us a choice.
If we are tried and proved faithful, we will miss out on this second death.
We must be faithful to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, even if we are going through the worst of persecution!
2Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
2Co 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Our day of “redemption” is so near that we can almost feel it. It is not time to quit on the Lord!